Learning Hebrew Online - Purim

by Shira Choen-Regev  The HebrewOnline Team

Shalom friends,

The holiday of Purim commemorates the salvation of the Jewish people, in the Persian , from the attempt to annihilate them. The story was documented in the Scroll of Esther (מְגִילַת אֶסְתֵּר, megilat ester), which became the last of the 24 books of the Tanach (תנ"ך, the Bible).

In short, the story tells about a plot planned by the advisor of King Ahasuerus, the wicked Haman, to kill all the Jews of the kingdom. Queen Esther, the concealed-Jewish wife of the king, with the help of her cousin Mordechai, rescued the Jews, utilizing a brave and ingenious plan. The day of extermination turned into the day of deliverance and the salvation has been celebrated ever since.

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In our last year newsletter, I retold the story of the Scroll of Esther.

The story ends with the command to celebrate this day every year in joy and festivity and by sending gifts to each other.

כַּיָּמִים, אֲשֶׁר-נָחוּ בָהֶם הַיְּהוּדִים מֵאֹיְבֵיהֶם, וְהַחֹדֶשׁ אֲשֶׁר נֶהְפַּךְ לָהֶם מִיָּגוֹן לְשִׂמְחָה, וּמֵאֵבֶל לְיוֹם טוֹב; לַעֲשׂוֹת אוֹתָם, יְמֵי מִשְׁתֶּה וְשִׂמְחָה, וּמִשְׁלֹחַ מָנוֹת אִישׁ לְרֵעֵהוּ, וּמַתָּנוֹת לָאֶבְיֹנִים.
 (אסתר ט', כ"ב)

the days wherein the Jews had rest from their enemies, and the month which was turned unto them from sorrow to gladness, and from mourning into a good day; that they should make them days of feasting and gladness, and of sending portions one to another, and gifts to the poor. (Esther, 9:22)

In this issue, we will learn about the customs of Purim – those that were commanded in the Bible, and those that developed throughout the years.

חַג שָׂמֵחַ!

Xag Same’ax (Happy )

שִׁירָה כֹּהֵן-רֶגֶב
by Shira Choen-Regev
The HebrewOnline Team

Purim Commands and Customs
There are four main mitsvot (מִצְווֹת, commands) pertaining to the holiday of Purim: Reading the Megila, sending gifts to friends, giving charity to the poor, and eating a festive meal. Throughout the years many other customs where added, such as eating Hamantash, masquerading, and making noise when Haman's name is mentioned.

*Reading the Scroll of Esther (קְרִיאַת מְגִילָה, kri’at  megila): Everyone should attend the reading of the Megila on Purim eve and Purim day. Women are obliged to attend the reading, because a woman, Queen Esther, is responsible for the miraculous deliverance of the Jews.

*    When the reader mentions Haman (54 occurrences), there is boisterous hissing, stamping, and rattling. Most often the noise is made by a noisy rattle called Ra’ashan (רַעֲשַׁן). The word רַעֲשַׁן is derived from the word רַעַשׁ (ra’ash), which means noise.

The reader is to pronounce the names of the ten sons of Haman in one breath, to indicate their simultaneous death.

*Sending food gifts to friends (מִשְׁלוֹחַ מָנוֹת, mishlo’ax manot) and Giving charity to the poor (מַתָּנוֹת לָאֶבְיוֹנִים, matanot la'evyonim):The Scroll of Esther prescribes “sending portions one to another, and gifts to the poor.” (9:22). Each Jew must send a minimum of two different, ready-to-eat foods to one friend, and two charitable donations to two poor people. Many people often prepare many food baskets and deliver to friends, neighbors, and relatives on Purim day.

*Hamantash (אָזְנֵי הָמָן , ozney haman): There is one “must” in the Mishlo’ax Manot – Hamantash. This pastry is recognizable for its three-cornered shape. The shape is achieved by folding in the sides of a circular piece of dough, with a filling placed in the center. The most common filling is poppy seed (פֶּרֶג, pereg).  The Hebrew name refers to Haman’s ears.

*Eating a festive meal (סְעוּדַת פּוּרִים, se’udat purim): On Purim day a jovial festive meal is held accompanied by much wine.

*t is stated in the Talmud that one should drink on Purim until he can no longer distinguish between (ad delo yada) the phrases, arur Haman (אָרוּר הָמָן, Cursed is Haman) and baruch Mordecai (בָּרוּךְ מָרְדְּכַי, Blessed is Mordecai):

עַד דְּלָא יָדַע בֵּין "אָרוּר הָמָן" לְ"בָּרוּךְ מָרְדְּכַי""
It is recommended, however, to drink only a little more than usual, and then try to fall asleep whereupon one certainly will not be able to tell the difference between the two phrases

*Masquerading (לְבִישַׁת תַּחְפּוֹשׂוֹת וּמַסֵּכוֹת, levishat taxposot umasexot):
One of the most entertaining customs of Purim is dressing-up in masks and costumes. Children in particular enjoy dressing up as the protagonists in the Book of Esther, as well as modern-day costumes such as animals, professions, or costumes related to well-known figures from movies, politics, or TV. Costumes and masks are worn to disguise the wearers' identities, because mistaken identity plays an important role in the story of Esther, as Esther hid her cultural origins from the king, Mordecai hid his knowledge of all the world's languages, and Haman was mistaken for Mordecai, when he led Mordecai through the streets of the capital.

The custom of wearing costumes is relatively new.  It was probably introduced by the Italian Jews who were influenced by the Roman carnival.

*Adloyada (Ad-עד Lo-לא Yada-ידע, Until one didn't know the other): In Israel there are Purim parades called Adloyada. The name refers to the drinking feast described in the Scroll of Ester, after which the guests couldn't tell their friends apart from the other attendees. In these Parades, men, women, boys and girls dress in costumes and masks and celebrate publicly.

Purim Hebrew Words


Transcription:  masexa

Part of speech: noun, feminine

Literal Meaning: mask, masque


Transcription:  megila

Part of speech: noun, feminine

Literal Meaning: scroll


Transcription:  yayin

Part of speech: noun, masculine

Literal Meaning: wine

Purim Hebrew Song

חַג פּוּרִים                                            Xag Purim
         מילים: לוין קִיפְנִיס                                    Words: Levin Kipnis
לַחַן: חֲסִידִי                                          Melody: Hasidic
The song

ַחַג פּוּרִים,
חַג פּוּרִים,
חַג גָּדוֹל הוּא לַיְּהוּדִים!
שִׁיר וְרִקּוּדִים!

הָבָה נַרְעִישָׁה:


Xag purim,

Xag purim,

Xag gadol hu layhudim!



Shir verikudim!

Hava nar’isha:



Literal meaning

Purim fest,

Purim fest,

Big festival for the Jews!


Graggers ,

Song and dances!

Let’s make noise:


By the graggers!

You can listen to this song performed by the Hadasim choir here

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